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Tattoo Apprenticeships: How To Get Them and Why You Need Them

Tattoo Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is the basis for a great tattoo career. They are not easy to do, not easy to get, not easy to prepare for, not easy to pay for. But all of this is for a reason. This hub will help you learn the ups and downs, pros and cons of getting a tattoo apprenticeship and how to go about getting one. 

PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of the article is to help educate and guide you in your journey to becoming a tattoo artist. Every shop and teacher will be different, but what follows is a good jumping off point to knowing what to expect.
There are many reasons why you absolutely need an apprenticeship, but the one that people tend to forget: Apprenticeships are not only a crucial training period, they are a right of passage. Show respect for this community and those who have earned the right to tattoo.

An apprenticeship is what a potential tattoo artist (and piercers) have to go through to become a professional artist. Think of it as earning your wings. Here are the basic steps.

1. Building a portfolio

First and foremost, do not walk into a shop with a portfolio of actual tattoos you’ve done. This is absolutely unacceptable for several reasons. One, you don’t have any idea what you are doing. Two, you can cause irreparable damage to the person you tattoo. Three, that artist will have to take time to not only teach you the right way to tattoo, but wean you off ‘scratcher’ habits. 

A portfolio consists of 50 to 200 drawings. This means COMPLETED and COLORED. You don’t want to walk into the shop with a sketch book full of doodles and half complete ideas. Choose only your best work, what you feel best showcases your talent. Portfolios should be in an actual portfolio, placed and matted in sheet protectors. Choose a portfolio that looks professional, don’t just use a three ring binder. Presentation is all about showing how professional and serious you are about getting your apprenticeship.

As far as drawings go, you want to have a wide array of work. Draw things that people usually get tattooed and some of your own creative ideas for tattoos. DO NOT copy other artists work. If that’s your idea of tattooing, then you had better find a different career. If you are having a hard time deciding what to draw, think of different life experiences that people would get tattooed. Tattoos are all about commemorating a time in your life, remembering something/someone or simply for adornment reasons. In your career you will constantly be doing these kind of tattoos. Ask your friends what they would get tattooed and draw it. There’s no better way to prepare yourself than to talk to people who may be your potential clients someday.

Draw everyday. Make every drawing your best. Don’t give up on an idea just because its too hard or boring because you will not always have a choice when it comes to tattooing. Again, all drawings must be complete. Color them using your choice of medium. Watercolor/Ink is widely thought to be the most similar to actually tattooing.

2. Finding a Shop

Find a shop with a good reputation. You want to learn from someone who actually wants to teach you, has a good educational background, and who will challenge you. This person is responsible for helping you learn the basics and some of their own tricks for tattooing so you want the best. Apprenticeships will cost you from nothing to around $5,000+, so you will want to make it worth your while.

Persistence is absolutely key in this process. If possible, get tattooed by the artist you want to learn from. Even better, get tattooed as much as possible (there are many reasons for this advice). Hang out in the shop, if they’ll let you. Even volunteering your time there can help you build a relationship with the artists there.

3. The Apprenticeship

When you get an apprenticeship, prepare to be what they call the ‘shop bitch’. You don’t get paid and you do all the dirty work. Take care of the trash, set up/break down stations, make sure they’re stocked, sweeping, run errands, etc. Chances are for awhile that’s all you’ll be doing. They do this to make sure you’re actually interested in doing the job, to weed out the unworthy. So take these tasks as an honor. You’re lucky to be there! So act that way. And don’t wait to be asked to do these things, just do them.

When you start learning, you will do a lot of watching. You will sit and watch several tattoos being done. Stay attentive. The best way to learn is through watching. You will learn how to make needles, use the autoclave, and all the health precautions to be taken (including blood borne pathogen certification). After, you will start learning to use the tattoo machine (NEVER call it a gun!). At first, you will tattoo on fake skin, fruit and maybe even yourself, depending on your teacher. You will learn about all the different set ups for the machines, the difference between liners and shaders, etc. You will also have to keep drawing, learn how to draw things quickly and well. Its a LOT of hard work so don’t get discouraged. Apprenticeships can take 6 months to 2 years, so plan accordingly.

4. Becoming a Tattoo Artist

You will do around 100 tattoos for free during your apprenticeship. But free tattoos mean that YOU will pay for them. So make sure to have a lot of money saved up for supplies. You can tattoo friends, family, whomever you wish. After that, you will possibly tattoo some clients at the shop.

Then the time will come you take your test to become certified. You absolutely need to take this test or you will be risking your reputation and possibly get into some trouble with the law.

Once you’ve passed your test, you may start tattooing and charging for it! So Congratulations! You’ve made it.

5. Professional Work

Generally, the shop you learned to tattoo at will have you on contract for at least a year after you’ve completed your apprenticeship. Keep working hard, take pictures of every tattoo you do, add these to a new portfolio. After your contract is up, you may choose to stay at your home shop or you may find a different shop. A huge part of your work is networking. A large portion of the work you get will be through word of mouth, so get to know other artists, collectors, etc. Go to conventions! Put yourself out there, don’t let yourself become complacent. You are responsible for your success at this point, no more coddling or hand holding. Go for it! Your future is yours to shape.

-Tattooed Lady

Rotary Machines Vs. Coil Machines

*PRO*  Prime Coil Machines

Traditional tattoo machines are driven by an electromagnetic coil, similar to the ones used in old electric doorbells. In fact, when the single coil machine was patented by Thomas Riley in 1891, he had built his first prototype using a doorbell assembly. The devices have gotten more and more sophisticated over time, but the technology behind it is still the same: a magnetic circuit moves the needle-bearing armature up and down. Coil machines are relatively inexpensive to produce and remain the most popular form of tattoo machine on the market.

*PRO*  Storm Rotary Machines

Rotary tattoo machines, with a piston or cam driven by an electric motor instead of magnetic coils, did not come on the scene until almost one hundred years later. Their ability to address some of the shortcomings of coil tattoo machines, however, has led to their ever-increasing popularity.

  • Precision – coil machines have a spring that absorbs shock as the artist works. This softer hit can be great for shading, but it also results in vibration as the at tattoo machine itself is hit by force that would otherwise be absorbed by the skin. Rotary tattoo machines, on the other hand, have a simple mechanical design and do not buzz and vibrate the way that coil machines do.
  • Power – rotary tattoo machines are generally more hard-hitting than their coil cousins. Even artists that prefer coil devices will often turn to a rotary device when it comes time to shade.
  • Versatility – coil tattoo machines are engineered to be excellent liners or shaders, but the same machine is rarely adequate for both jobs. With a rotary machine, the same device can tackle both tasks with a quick change of a cam and needle.
  • Comfort – besides having less buzz and vibration than a coil machine, rotary machines are more lightweight. Without the bulk and heft typically associated with coil machines, the artist can work without straining his joints and compensating for his machine’s clumsiness.

Despite its growing use, the rotary tattoo machine still falls behind the coil machine in popularity. Some artists that have learned their trade with coil devices simply do not want to make the change, either preferring the softer hit for shading or not wanting to re-adjust to a new weight and feel. With new artists picking up rotaries as their first tattoo machines, and new models like the Dragonfly catching the eye of experienced artists, however, the gap is quickly closing.

-National Tattoo Supply

The safest and easiest way to dispose of the rinse cup in the tattoo industry!

"I’m a tattoo artist in the city of Huntington Beach, Ca. I own and work at The Tattoo Gallery with four of my very close friends. After years and years of leaking trash bags, I decided one day to put an end to it once and for all and created RinseCup CleanUp.

When I designed this product I made sure it is the best that exists and can not get any better. Also, it’s non-toxic because our trash gets put into landfills and that would only hurt the environment. I believe as a whole, us humans do enough of that! Disposing of our rinse cups and ink caps this way is the safest method and eliminates cross-contamination in our trade due to the contaminated liquids we produce.

Once in the landfill, RinseCup CleanUp slowly releases the water and improves soil conditions through aeration. It’s less expensive than using paper towels and safer than dumping it down a sink. When that method is used more toxic chemicals are needed to clean the area it was dumped in, which leads to poisoning our environment even more.

Now we are in many countries and the response is amazing. So much support from this trade! The only advertising I have done is thru IG. It’s spreading like wildfire and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.”

-Dan Mcnab, TAM Blog

Tattoo Ink Chemistry


What are Tattoo Inks?

The short answer to the question is: You can’t be 100% certain! Manufacturers of inks and pigments are not required to reveal the contents. A professional who mixes his or her own inks from dry pigments will be most likely to know the composition of the inks. However, the information is proprietary (trade secrets), so you may or may not get answers to questions.

Most tattoo inks technically aren’t inks. They are composed of pigments that are suspended in a carrier solution. Contrary to popular belief, pigments usually are not vegetable dyes. Today’s pigments primarily are metal salts. However, some pigments are plastics and there are probably some vegetable dyes too. The pigment provides the color of the tattoo. The purpose of the carrier is to disinfect the pigment suspension, keep it evenly mixed, and provide for ease of application.

Tattoos and Toxicity

This article is concerned primarily with the composition of the pigment and carrier molecules. However, there are important health risks associated with tattooing, both from the inherent toxicity of some of the substances involved and unhygienic practices. To learn more about the risks associated with a particular tattoo ink, check out the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for any pigment or carrier. The MSDS won’t be able to identify all chemical reactions or risks associated with chemical interactions within the ink or the skin, but it will give some basic information about each component of the ink. Pigments and tattoo inks are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. However, the Food and Drug Administration is examining tattoo inks to determine the chemical composition of the inks, learn how they react and break down in the body, how light and magnetism react with inks, and whether there are short- and long-term health hazards associated with ink formulations or methods of applying the tattoos.

Tattoo Pigment Chemistry

The oldest pigments came from using ground up minerals and carbon black. Today’s pigments include the original mineral pigments, modern industrial organic pigments, a few vegetable-based pigments, and some plastic-based pigments. Allergic reactions, scarring, phototoxic reactions (i.e., reaction from exposure to light, especially sunlight), and other adverse effects are possible with many pigments. The plastic-based pigments are very intensely colored, but many people have reported reactions to them. There are also pigments that glow in the dark or in response to black (ultraviolet) light. These pigments are notoriously risky - some may be safe, but others are radioactive or otherwise toxic.

Here’s a table listing the colors of common pigments use in tattoo inks. It isn’t exhaustive - pretty much anything that can be used as a pigment has been at some time. Also, many inks mix one or more pigment:

Read More

3-D Beveling

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This time I want to discuss beveling. This is the 3-D effect that makes things look like they are chiseled out of stone or wood or whatever. The Romans made this popular, as practically all their signage was chiseled out of stone. This effect creates the feeling of strength and formality. It’s a nice effect for tattoo lettering, as it has a serious yet elegant look to it. It also says MONEY! We still see it, today, carved into the lentils of most big city banking institutions. Beveling can be done to just about any lettering style, if you give it enough stroke width. Once again, I want to stress the need for simplicity to improve the readability of the piece.

As with any serious artist, I must point out the importance of light sourcing. This is the assignment of a light source, to create the illusion of depth. Putting the light source off to a corner creates more depth than just having it directly to the side or directly on top or the bottom. My favorite is upper left, as you will notice in the drawing I have provided. Simply if your light is coming from the upper left, logically the shadow or dark is coming form the bottom right. Normally, with this type of thick and thin block letter, a line is drawn down the center of the letters and a triangular shape usually ends the strokes. By connecting the crossing strokes with lines, you can create the desired beveled effect to complete the illusion.

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Round letters are a little different, as the shadowed area does not end with a sharp angle. By looking at the “O” and “S,” you can see the reference lines I made to help you understand how the dark shading is blended off and where. The “R” shows the blending without the reference lines. As you can see, I offer a sample of how script lettering can be beveled, too.

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Bear in mind that this also works well with color. For example, a monochromatic effect can be achieved by using varying shades of dark and light blue. Personally, I like to leave a bit of light against the centerline to finish it off, with a little white. Or, if , say, I’m doing a letter with varying shades of green, I might finish it off with a little lemon yellow to accent the sharp edge of the bevel. You can also add some cracks and chips, to make them look like granite. Add some wood grain and a few knots here and there and you have a rustic masterpiece! Make them transparent like they are made out of Jello! I have included some samples of my tattoos and banners to show you different ways of doing things. You can notice that I beveled the EDGE of the letters on my show banners (yet another cool variant!).

This month’s font is basically a “cheat sheet,” to show you where the lines go. Stash it for reference. Remember one thing: If you don’t know how to make needles then you can’t understand how they work and why. Learning how to form letters gives you a good idea on how they work, when you decide to modify and create your own. Tracing letters out of a book is okay, but you are only limited to what’s in the book, you know?

-Uncle Tim

"Lettering 101"

Using a Camera by Dave Nestler

Fig1 11 767x1024 How to Draw with David Nestler—No. 14 (Using a Camera)

Fig. #1

I’ve been pretty happy with the progression of this How To article. We started with simple basics and moved on to more dedicated and specific tattoo tips and techniques, all with the intention of providing you with more ammunition to add to your artistic arsenal. I could keep going on this same path, adding even more obscure tips and observations that I employ in my drawings and paintings, in the hopes of making you a better tattoo artist. But I believe this column would be better served by going back to the beginning, starting with the basics and expanding on each subject much more than I did in prior issues.

Let’s start with the first thing you’ll need for the development of a great drawing or painting; and that’s photo reference. If you’ve been an ongoing reader, you know that this is a particular pet peeve of mine, and I’ve been beating you to death issue after issue about the quality of your photo references and how important they can be. And since I am a pinup tattoo artist, let’s talk about shooting people for reference. It’s no mystery I paint pretty girls for a living, and all my paintings are based on real models. So, for me, a good clean, hi-res photo is absolutely necessary, if I’m going to capture the likeness of the subject I’m drawing or painting.Fig22 How to Draw with David Nestler—No. 14 (Using a Camera) 

Let’s be clear, I’m not a photographer. I don’t know my aperture from my F-stops, but we’re not shooting for print here, we’re shooting for reference. A photographer shooting for print will take hundreds of shots to get that “ONE” image. As a tattoo artist, I just need something clean and in focus to draw from. For this example, let’s look at the cover I did for the June 2009 issue of Skin&Ink (Fig.1) featuring world-class fitness model Jamie Eason. The idea was for a summer/ beach/ bikini/ surf theme suggested by the original Coppertone ad, with the little girl and the dog, from the ’60s.

Since continually on the road doing tattoo conventions, I shoot out of hotel rooms. No fancy studio, no professional lighting or backdrops. Just me and my ten megapixel Canon Rebel set on automatic with an internal flash. Remember, this is for reference, not print. I need two things for reference when I shoot: a full body shot and a good facial pic. I shoot them separately, so as not to rely on that “ONE” shot where both are perfect. And with the benefits of a digital camera, I don’t have to wait for film development anymore. I can shoot a dozen pics, review them and, if I don’t like what I see, I can delete them and start over.

Fig3 How to Draw with David Nestler—No. 14 (Using a Camera)

Let’s look at Fig. #2. I have the idea in my head as to what I want, so I shot Jamie in that position, remembering to fill the frame and get the image as large as I can. This makes for a more detailed image later, when I output it. Once I’m happy with the body positioning, I close in and shoot for different facial expressions (fig. #3). It’s amazing how much difference there is by simply moving the face up and down just the smallest amount. It’s just a matter of choosing one from “Column A” and one from “Column B.” Combine the best of both and you’ve got the perfect reference.

Quick Tip: When your combining the face from one picture to the body of another, it’s easy just to eyeball it. A good measuring tip, in order to get them dead-on, is to measure the distance from the hairline to the tip of the jaw and adjust that equal the distances of your other pic. In preparing this piece, I did a third shot, a separate pic of the hand ( Fig. #4 ), just so I have a large clear pic to work from.

Fig4 How to Draw with David Nestler—No. 14 (Using a Camera)

Fig. #4

There’s no real science behind this. It’s just clarity. A good, clean hi-res photo makes your job so much easier.


"Tattoo Tips and Techniques"

Tattoo Aftercare

Tattooing isn’t just magically creating new colors and designs on a client’s skin. It’s forcing colored ink beneath their skin by piercing it repeatedly with needles. It is art-by injury, perhaps not to the same degree as piercing or more obscure body art such as branding, but still, you cause bodily trauma in order to make a tattoo.

As with any wounds, this means that care must be taken to ensure they heal cleanly and quickly

Unfortunately, the recommendations on just how to do this vary from artist to artist, but almost all agree a bandage should be used. Some tattoo artists, reportedly, use saran wrap to cover wounds, but this is actually a rather bad idea. Wounds need to breathe, and such a wrap becomes a haven for bacteria!

Tattoo Model

A closer look at the bandages…

One of the matters of real contention, however, is in how long the bandages should be left on. Some recommend definitely taking the bandages off after an hour. Others say, instead, that the bandage should be left on for at least two hours. Each tattooist passes on what has worked for their clients, or at least what they were taught during their training. Given that most of the time, only really poorly cared for tattoos will have any real problems, there is likely a large amount of flexibility in the timing of the particular details.

Another near-universal recommendation is, whether after one hour or over two, when the bandage is removed, the area must be cleaned with a mild antibacterial soap and water…

It is important that this soap is not too harsh or drying, as this could irritate the tattoo wound. This must be done regularly, cleaning off any blood, plasma, and dirt that might have accumulated. Some, however, suggest that you avoid any hot showers, or anything else that could cause the pores to open up too much, and possibly allow water infiltration or ink loss. If a client does need to take a shower, it is best to protect the tattoo from direct exposure to the spray for the first few days. Submerging the tattoo in a bath or pool should be avoided for at least two weeks. Ocean water should be avoided until it is fully and truly healed. New tattoos should also be kept out of direct sun as much as possible.

Whenever the tattoo is cleaned, which should be regularly, a clear, fragrance-free ointment should be applied…

It should be stressed that the ointment needs to be fragrance-free, as fragrance compounds can be irritants, and you definitely don’t want to do anything to encourage irritation in a new tattoo. Ointments are best to use during the first stage of healing, but once scabbing and peeling begin to occur,  this needs to be changed to a lotion.

While excessive scabbing can be a sign of a poorly done tattoo, some is inevitable. Piercing the skin causes blood seepage into the wounds, and as they heal, some of this congealed blood will be pushed out and dry. In addition, the heavily damaged top level of skin will not shed normally, so as the skin heals it will shed in large pieces, which can be unsightly and disturbing. Rest assured, this is a normal part of the healing process. Continue cleaning and using moisturizers as normal, and it will pass quickly once the top layer has been shed and the skin renewed.

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There are indications to watch out for, which show that medical care should be sought…

While some scabbing is to be expected, excessive scabbing is an indication of undue injury, and greater risk of infection. Seeping and inflammation are signs that an infection, or at least an unusual reaction, has already begun, and medical care is critical to prevent further health problems, or damage to the tattoo. A rash is also a sign of worse inflammation, as well as a strong indicator of irritation or even allergic reaction to the inks. Such reactions are especially common with red pigments.

All the safety measures in the world, while tattooing, won’t protect a client if these measures aren’t followed. If you want your tattoo art to last, the utmost care must be taken. Fortunately, major tattoo problems are pretty rare, and the steps are simple and common-sense. Make sure, if someone is willing to pay the time, pain, and money to get a tattoo, they’ll be willing to give the really minimal care needed to  keep it.

via Tattoo 101

The Different Styles and Techniques of Tattooing

Learning how to become a tattoo artist means learning a lot of different styles and techniques.  While it’s tempting to want to jump in with both feet to try a little of everything at once, tattooing is like any other art form. You need to learn basic skills and them build on them as your abilities and confidence grow.

As you work through your apprenticeship, you will develop skills in all of these areas, not to mention learning about all kinds of fascinating techniques that others are using to make their art stand out and to make their customers happy.

There are great techniques out there for adding light an luminosity to your pieces, or for adding texture that looks realistic, for example.

But first, the aspiring tattoo artist will want to learn the basics:


Outlining, or lining, is the technique used to create a basic shape on skin.  Usually done with a round group of needles, lines can vary from very thin to quite thick.  Sometimes, tattoo artists choose to “build up” lines by using multiple passes very close together to make a  thicker line.

While lining is certainly a basic tattooing skill, it is also a very important one.  Even lines are necessary for a smooth, professional tattoo.  They also give important definition to the design.  Lining doesn’t only have to be done with black ink, like the outline in a coloring book.  You can also use color with your round liner to define a particular area of a design.


Coloring is the term used for filling in areas of the design with color.  This may or may not include using black ink, although some artists refer to all blank ink work as ‘shading.”  Depending on the effect you want with your coloring, you may choose from a variety of techniques.  Sometimes you may choose to use a series of small overlapping circles to fill in a space.  In other cases, you may choose to sweep the needle across the skin with varying pressure to create more of a shading effect.

Coloring is usually done from darkest to lightest, rather than working from one side of the tattoo to the other.  This is done for a couple of reasons.  First, this keeps the darker colors from accidentally mixing with the lighter ones.  Also, the needles, tube, and tips will have to be cleaned between colors, and you wouldn’t want to have to do so every five minutes.


Tattoo Shading is one of the things that can really make a tattoo artist.  Someone who is good at shading creates images that have depth and are interesting to look at.  Shading is usually done with black ink, and there are different techniques you can use to create darker or lighter shadows.  For example, you can start with heavier pressure at the beginning of a stroke, lightening your touch as you lift the needle off the skin at the end of the stroke.

There are other methods for creating a lighter shade, too.  Some artists will add white to black to make a custom gray.  Others choose to add more water or other fluid to their black.  Of course, the shade matters, but so does the artist’s understanding of how light falls and how to translate that into a tattoo.


Many people are interested in tattoos that include words, so being skilled at lettering can be a major bonus for a tattoo artist.  Trends change, but something that seems to remain fairly constant is the desire to include names or quotations into tattoos.  Creating nice tattoos that incorporate lettering requires you to understand concepts such as the spacing required to lay words out in an attractive way, as well as the form and function of the letters themselves.

A word to the wise when it comes to lettering: use a dictionary!  Too many times, someone leaves a tattoo shop thrilled with their new ink only to have the next person they see point out that something in the design is spelled wrong.  In addition to using a dictionary, have the client sign off on the spelling before you put the needle to skin.

These are just a few of the styles and techniques that a tattoo artists needs to become familiar with, but they do provide a good foundation upon which to build other skills.


How to Draw with Dave Nestler: All the Better to Trace You With, My Dear

FIG.1 copy1 How to Draw with Dave Nestler: All the Better to Trace You With, My Dear

Fig. #1


When a certain market becomes trendy, popular or just brought more into the public consciousness, someone will be there to exploit, cash in or capitalize on the blossoming of that market. In the four short years I’ve been entrenched in the tattoo world, and especially on the convention circuit, I’ve noticed this boom. Especially when it comes to tools and materials. I’ve watched the classic tattoo machine evolve to Numas, rotaries and even wireless machines. Really? Wireless? I’m all for choice, but with choice comes decision-making. With the availability of so much new product and equipment on the market, there is little time to get comfortable with one tool before a new one is introduced. Remember what I said: “Familiarity breeds consistency.” And it’s the comfort level achieved with a certain tool that allows you to be more consistent in the development of your technique. Thank goodness I work in a market where my materials really haven’t changed that much. A pencil is a pencil is a pencil, and the brush hasn’t changed much since DaVince was in short pants. That being said, I’m all for building a better mousetrap, but until the time comes that a wireless, Pentium, chip driven paintbrush is introduced, I’ll stick with what’s been working for me for twenty-five years.

Fig.2 copy1 How to Draw with Dave Nestler: All the Better to Trace You With, My Dear

Fig. #2

I talked in length awhile back about pencil lead and paper. I briefly touched on materials used when tracing. Well, I want to expound on that a bit, as here is where technology has built the better trap. We all use tracing paper, to trace with. It’s cheap, plentiful and allows us to copy what we see underneath, with ease. It’s also fragile, tears easily and doesn’t react well to over usage. Years ago, I discovered drafting film. It’s a one- or two-sided, frosted acetate, extremely durable and even more translucent than tracing paper! For the next couple columns, I’ll be showing you the development of a sketch from start to finish. For my reference, I’ll be using a photo I took of Rachael Leuderalbert, who won the “Miss Pinup” contest at the Jacksonville Tattoo Expo this past year. For this current issue I want to show you the difference in transparency from tracing paper to film. Fig.#1 is a photo of Rachael that I’ll be using for my sketch. In Fig.#2, I covered the left half of the picture with tracing paper, and drafting film on the right half. As you can see, there is a noticeable difference between the two.

Fig.3 copy1 How to Draw with Dave Nestler: All the Better to Trace You With, My Dear

Fig. #3

So, what are the benefits to this? Primarily, I am able to see more detail in my photo and capture that detail in my tracing. However, there is a downside to working with film: it’s a lot more expensive. So, it wouldn’t be something I would use to trace tribal designs off a flash sheet. Instead, I use it for my more intricate work. As in Fig#3, you’ll see that I am able to create a tracing, capturing every detailed element with relative ease. There are all kinds of advantages to using all kinds of materials. Sometimes it’s faster. Sometimes it makes certain aspects of your work easier. Ultimately, it’s the tools you’re comfortable with that will benefit you. And the only way to do this is to test the out. Starting with the next issue, we’ll follow the development of Rachael’s sketch from start to finish touching on all aspects along the way. Gentleman, start your pencils.

Note: Most art stores carry drafting film. If you are having problems locating it, email me and I’ll let you know where you can find it online. —Dave Nestler (Contact Dave at

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